adult children of alcoholics

4 Common Personality Traits in Adult Children of Alcoholics

Screaming, yelling, and fighting.

Imagine waking up in the morning to the sound of your parents fighting. Not just arguing, but screaming, shouting, and maybe even throwing things.

Not sure what’s going on, you stumble downstairs to find out what’s wrong. Peering over the staircase, you can barely make out what your parents are saying. But you know whatever is going on must be serious. Afraid you might be in trouble yourself, you decide to skip breakfast and hide out in your room.

Being the Child of an Alcoholic

Children of alcoholics live in a strange reality. One minute everything is calm and serene. Then suddenly, without warning, a crisis erupts in their living room. The endless cycle of drama and pseudo-resolution may even continue into adulthood.

If you or a loved one is the child of an alcoholic, you're not alone. Almost 28 million children in the U.S. are currently living with an alcoholic parent.

While we can't change the past, learning from it can help us reshape our future. Read on to learn more about the personality traits that are common among children from alcoholic households.

Tips for Children of Alcoholics

Before you start reviewing the ways alcoholism impacts children, you’ll want to prepare yourself for what you might be feeling.

It's normal for survivors of alcoholism to want to defend their parents, especially given the ways that alcoholism has shaped their lives. It's also natural to feel anger, sadness, and even guilt.

We suggest that you write down any negative judgments that arise, whether they are against yourself or another individual, as you learn about the damage alcohol can cause. Research shows that writing down how you feel helps you process your feelings. You don't have to read them, just write them down to get them out of your head.

Once you’re in the right headspace, you're ready to begin looking at some of the darkest parts of alcoholism and the way you or another child might react to them.

1. Children of Alcoholics Expect Excitement

Constant crises and daily dramas can cause children of alcoholics to expect life to be tense. This is because their experience has shown them that anything can go wrong, at any time. As they grow familiar with feelings of panic or fear, they start to expect them all the time.

Usually, when we think of something as exciting, we think of it as fun. However, this type of excitement refers to a more scary feeling stemming from fear.

Rather than feeling joyfully excited, children of alcoholics often feel fearfully excited.

Then, once they become adults, their minds stay stuck in crisis mode. This chaotic outlook on life usually continues in their own lives until they unlearn it.

2. Children of Alcoholics Often Experience Insecure Attachment

During early childhood, it's important for kids to feel secure. It's during this time of their life that the groundwork is being laid for how they will function as adults.

Insecure attachment is one consequence of an unstable, alcoholic household. It is often characterized by the need for things to be surprising or different. However, things don't necessarily have to be exciting (scary or adrenaline-fueled) for an insecure attachment to form in children of alcoholics.

Children of alcoholics may feel that a crisis must always be present in their lives because it is all they have ever known to be true. For instance, adult children of alcoholics might seek out unstable relationships, jobs, and financial situations.

This is because people who struggle with an unhealthy attachment to instability are also prone to behaviors like self-sabotage. As fear and doubt creep in about their future, they'll feel a familiar sense of panic.

Of course, insecure attachment is subliminal behavior. In their own minds, adult children of alcoholics are doing everything possible to be happy. It just so happens that being unhappy is more comfortable and familiar.

3. Children of Alcoholics Are Susceptible to Addiction

Another problem that adult children of alcoholics face is the potential for substance abuse and addiction. The combination of genetics and experiences cause these individuals to have a higher probability of struggling with addiction than the average person.

Studies show that when a parent abuses alcohol before conception, their child is more likely to also have addiction problems. In fact, genetics can increase the risk of having addiction by 40 to 60 percent– or more, in some cases.

4. Children of Alcoholics Are Overwhelmed by Emotions

Alcoholic parents aren't as emotionally available to their children as they should be. Moreover, children may witness their alcoholic parents behaving wildly during active addiction.

While they may think, “I will never act that way,” they are unconsciously learning from their addicted parents. Many adult children experience feelings of disgust when they notice any extreme similarities between their and their addicted parents’ behavior.

Unregulated emotions and feelings of self-hatred can lead to the development of serious mental health issues, like depression. They can also cause high levels of anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions.

Dealing with Adulthood as the Child of an Alcoholic

Children of alcoholics tend to also struggle with small setbacks in their plans. This makes personal relationships and self-discipline especially challenging to maintain.

They may find themselves yelling at their partner for being a few minutes late to a date. They may overly criticize themselves for not being able to complete a personal goal. For these individuals, even being stuck in traffic can feel like a reason to hate themselves- or others.

The Addiction Treatment Services blog provides reliable information to help families recover from addiction. Knowledge and communication are the keys to healing, and being whole again.

Do you know someone who might be struggling with alcoholism? There are things you can do to help without putting yourself at risk. Check out our latest article about how to hold an alcohol intervention.

For any additional information about alcohol detox and treatment options, contact us here or call us at (877) 455-0055.

What to Expect at Your First AA Meeting

Attending an AA Meeting

What to Expect in an AA Meeting

Each AA chapter is run by local volunteers, so although each is similar, the experience varies across the board. And each meeting within a chapter can be different since people can share and discuss things can take the conversations in many different directions.

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about what to expect in AA meetings:

‘Do I have to speak in an AA meeting?’

We are all familiar with the Hello, I am (so and so), and I am an alcoholic that takes place in AA meetings, thanks to Hollywood’s on-screen AA scenes in films. AA chapter leaders do indeed encourage members to start their meetings in this way because it helps newcomers feel welcome and comfortable. The goal in the meetings is to show support for everyone who is taking steps to get sober.

While all members are encouraged to speak at the meetings, no one is pressured into talking.

‘What should I not say in AA meetings?’

To keep discussions from going off track and to respect each individual’s experiences without judgment, members are encouraged to speak about their own experiences and discouraged from using crosstalk.

Crosstalk is responding to what someone else said by sharing your own opinions or giving advice. As much as you may be tempted to weigh in enthusiastically with your two cents, avoid interrupting to give advice. If you experienced a similar situation, you can certainly share your own experience when it’s your turn.

Respect each person’s story as their own, without judgment, and know that you will be given this same courtesy. This is part of the magic of AA meetings.

‘What is discussed in AA meetings?’

During meetings, some chapters choose to read a portion of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, or the group may study the 12 steps in depth.

In some cases, chapters may bring in experts to help the group learn more about certain aspects of recovery or treatment. The agenda is very flexible, depending on what the group leader decides is most needed.

‘How do Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors work?’

The feature of AA that is most well-known is the sponsor program. Sponsors are assigned to each new member to help support newcomers to take on sobriety. Because the founders and leaders of AA firmly stand by a total abstinence policy, the sponsor program is used to bring people together to help each other stay strong when they are tempted to drink.

‘How will I be received in my first AA meeting?’

In your first meeting, don’t be surprised if you are approached by other members with offers of support and encouragement, and even hugs and phone numbers. Some members are a bit alarmed at the enthusiasm of other AA members who want to get to know them. Most of these people are well-meaning and want to support newbies because they remember what it was like to start this process.

However, do listen to your instincts if any interaction feels uncomfortable or inappropriate. Remember that you don’t have to be friends with anyone outside of AA meetings if you don’t want to.

Who Can Attend AA Meetings?

While no AA chapter charges membership fees or dues, certain policies do vary by location. Some chapters open their meetings up to anyone (including family members), while others hold closed meetings for alcoholics only.

Some AA chapters serve particular demographics of people a group specifically for men, or for teens only, for example.

Before you go, contact your local AA chapter to find out the details about its policies or restrictions, as well as times and meeting places.

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Understanding AA Meeting Types and Codes

There are two main types of AA meetings:

  • Open Meeting – Open to both alcoholics and guests (such as family members), though usually only those who are fighting alcohol addiction will speak.
  • Closed Meeting – Attendance is limited to alcoholics only.

There are many other codes that designate the topics that are to be discussed. Here are some of the most common codes, which can be combined with “O” or “C” to designate if it is a closed or open meeting. For example, OBB would indicate an open meeting where the Big Book will be discussed.

  • D – Discussion – A chairperson shares his or her own experience and then leads the group in further discussion.
  • BB – Big Book – Reading and discussion from the Alcoholics Anonymous book.
  • S – Step – The book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” is used to focus on one of the 12 steps.
  • BS – Big Book Step Study – The focus is on some aspect of the 12 steps from the Big Book.

When AA Isn’t Enough

Because the success of AA depends on the participant’s willingness to initiate change is his or her own life, the program can’t really help those who aren’t yet ready to own up to their problem and take corrective action.

Also, many alcoholics need to detox from alcohol dependency first, which requires medically supervised detox in an alcohol and drug rehab facility. Attempting to self-detox can be fatal and is strongly discouraged by medical professionals, but there are plenty of drug and alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation centers to guide a recovering alcoholic through the detox process.

What Is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith with the intention of providing a safe and supportive environment where those with a drinking problem could talk candidly about their addiction and support one another in taking steps to achieve sobriety.

AA is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization. It does not provide any sort of detox or treatment services, nor does it try to get people to enter any type of program.

To really benefit from AA, people must come to the meetings with a willingness to acknowledge their drinking problem and have a self-motivated desire to change their situation. Practically speaking, however, many people attend their first AA meeting due to pressure from family or a court order. Some of the people who are coerced into attending end up enjoying the meetings and deciding to continue, but the success rate is much higher for those who attend voluntarily.

The structure of AA meetings is fairly simple: People who struggle with alcohol gather to share their experiences, provide encouragement to one another, and learn about the practical steps to alcoholism recovery using the famous 12 steps.

What Is the AA Big Book?

The Big Book is a term commonly used to refer to the Alcoholics Anonymous book that describes the AA philosophy of how to recover from alcoholism, as written by one of AA’s founders: Bill Wilson.

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Intervention Help for Families of Alcoholics

For families who want to help a loved one recover from alcohol addiction, the first step may be learning how to stage an intervention for alcohol addiction.

Addiction Treatment Services can assist in pairing you with services for all aspects of addiction intervention and treatment. We can:

  • Connect you with a professional interventionist
  • Help you find the right detox and treatment program for your loved one
  • Assist you in managing the insurance process
  • Help you identify the right aftercare program and connect with local AA chapters

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